I've noted that Japan, despite having a GDP just a tenth of ours in 1941, believed they could hit us hard enough at the beginning of a war to make it too difficult for us to contemplate rolling back Japan's gains.
China, with nukes and an economy gaining on us rapidly, could make the same mistake:
Can China defeat U.S. forces in the Western Pacific with a surprise attack? According to the Chinese, at least in public statements, they believe they can. Developing this capability has been in the works since the 1990s, as China built up its force of ballistic missiles (with high explosive warheads) on their coast to deal with Taiwan and Japan. ...
The problem here is that, in any major war, both sides do not know everything about what the other side has, nor is able to accurately predict how the known and concealed plans of each side will turn out once the fighting starts. This is an important point for the Chinese as they need to win quick because a protracted war would produce economic collapse in China. That would produce major political problems for China’s leaders. According to the Chinese military this is not a problem because the Chinese generals and admirals seem increasingly confident of a quick victory via surprises.
That’s dangerous thinking, because it rarely works out that way and the Chinese have a long history of overestimating their capabilities in the opening stages of a war.
Is this just being said to bolster their military's morale and to build confidence in the people, Strategypage asks?
Perhaps. But if the Chinese Communist Party is too successful in that effort, could they safely back down from a crisis with American or Japan without looking like failures and cowards who should be removed for retreating when everyone knows China is now strong?
Under such circumstances, the Chinese Communist Party might think that a losing war is more manageable from their political survival point of view than backing down and avoiding a losing war effort.
And let me say--so you know that I don't suffer from Obama Derangement Syndrome--that the reputation of an American president for resolve might not be able to persuade the Chinese that backing down is in their best interest.
Even if we had the anti-Obama in office, the Chinese could decide that their own nukes would minimize any losses in a conventional war, making party survival achievable despite losing a short war.
Remember, their rational is not the same as our rational. And that's assuming that rationality of some sort is the major driver of the decision to go to war or risk war.
Reality willl drive the outcome. But belief could be the factor that reveals reality--at a price.